‘One attacker was crying: Help me, I am injured. But he was not. He was trying to trap us, and shoot us’
PESHAWAR – Syed Basit Naqvi was sitting at his desk when the principal of his army-run school in Pakistan rushed into the classroom and shouted for the guard to lock the door.
As he did so, three militants stormed in and starting shooting. The guard dropped dead first, followed by other students hit by indiscriminate gunfire. The attackers then lined up the remaining schoolboys and starting shooting them in the head, one by one, at point-blank range.
When they came to Naqvi, he ducked his head – a move that saved his life. “The bullet hit my head slightly, and I deliberately fell down. He must have thought I was dead,” Naqvi, 13, said on Tuesday night at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, the north-western city where the attack took place.
After the militants left the room, he hid behind a chair with three other students. He watched as his friends lay in pools of blood on the ground, before he was rescued by medical staff.
His mother, a teacher at the school, was not as fortunate. She died from a gunshot wound to the head. Naqvi discovered this when he realised they were in the same ambulance.
A day after 148 people died in one of the most
violent attacks in Pakistan’s history, the nation surveyed the damage from the nine-hour slaughter.
Taleban militants took responsibility for the attack, and said they targeted the children of military officers to force the end of an army offensive that began in June.
The first students targeted were gathered in the auditorium to receive first-aid training, police said.
Muhammad Harris, 16, said he was in a room with 30 students and four teachers when they heard a commotion in the hall. The students said some of the attackers appeared to be speaking Arabic. “Our female teacher went outside when we heard the firing, and was shot dead,” Harris said.
“One attacker was crying, ‘Help me, I am injured’. But he was not and was trying to trap us, and shoot us,” he added.
Children’s shoes and spectacles were strewn across the blood-stained floor of the auditorium the day after 132 students were slaughtered. All seven attackers entered through the auditorium and shot at students from the stage, said military spokesman Asim Bajwa, as he showed reporters the devastation at the school. After killing students in the auditorium, the attackers moved on to the administrative offices. They eventually detonated bombs they had strapped to themselves, after security forces surrounded them, Mr Bajwa said.
Blood and bullet holes marked the walls of a staffroom, with cabinets thrown open, furniture splintered, windows broken and doors knocked off their frames. Thirteen employees of the Army Public School were among the dead. The principal’s office was burned, completely black. “Reports are that the principal was burned when she tried to stop attackers from killing the children,” Mr Bajwa said.
Crowds thronged the Lady Reading Hospital on Tuesday night to take a look at lists of the dead children, most of whom were 14. Family members wept outside the emergency room.
Mr Guloono Baba, an eyewitness who owns a shop next to the school, said soldiers helped protect his family during the gunfire. “We were hearing gunfire and blasts, and women and children screaming. They were shouting, ‘They are killing kids and teachers’,” Mr Baba said. “My kids were so scared and were asking me what is happening outside. But I was just blank.”
BLOOMBERG, WASHINGTON POST